How to Efficiently Set up a Personal Blog in 2019 – Expert Roundup
Every aspiring blogger is curious about the whys and the hows of blogging success. Those interested in profit by blogging wonder what they should do to stand out in a sea of other blogs. Even those blogging purely out of passion would lie if they said they didn’t want their new blog to be noticed. All in all, when it comes to creating a blog, most novices simply don’t know where to begin. And naturally, like all human beings, they are also afraid of failure.
That’s why we’ve reached out to 17 blogging experts to share their advice on the following pressing questions:
- What are the most important things for beginners who plan to set up a personal blog in 2019?
- What are the most common mistakes growing bloggers make when they try to improve their traffic and ranking, and why do they make them?
In their answers, the experts we contacted also touch on subjects such as whether it’s better to have a self-hosted blog or to use some other platform, the importance of social media to drive traffic to your blog, as well as the significance of content management.
One of the best ways to learn how to set up a personal blog is to follow the advice of those with more experience, so without further ado, let’s check out what these successful bloggers have to say.
1. Give yourself time to build your name
As there is more competition now more than ever, it’s way harder to create great content that will get noticed. That’s why the most important thing to think about when you’re starting a blog is figuring out what your content/promoting strategy will be, and how you’re going to differentiate it from all the other already-seen content. Not fully thinking this through will most certainly result in failure.
Most blogs go nowhere because people underestimate how much time and effort goes into creating and promoting content. A WordPress blog can potentially be a fantastic marketing channel but is also a very expensive one in terms of the amount of work and resources required to break through. So, be willing to work hard and give yourself time in order to build your brand name.
2. Measure your metrics from the very beginning
My advice for all up and coming bloggers out there is not to worry too much about quality, perfection, or monetization. Just write! Your first blog posts aren’t going to win the Pulitzer Prize, so focus on getting into good habits, establish a rhythm, etc.
Also, don’t be afraid to write on platforms like Facebook, Medium, and LinkedIn to find your voice when starting out. But before too long, strongly consider creating and hosting your own blog on the WordPress platform. When you create good work, you want to own the results!
Measure your results early and often. While views and shares are good beginner metrics for bloggers, you’ll soon find that you benefit most from the powerful reports found in Google Analytics. A key to growing your following is learning from your existing followers. There’s a no better (and more accurate) tool for this than Google Analytics. If you ask me, every self-hosted blog should have this tool installed.
A common mistake bloggers make when trying to improve their results is taking a short-term mindset. It’s unlikely that your blog content is going to blow up into the next BuzzFeed, so focus on growing a core audience before shooting for the moon. Search traffic takes time, and if you take shortcuts to get there, you’re on borrowed time. Don’t rely on gimmicks, schemes, or scams to grow your results. Build an audience by being yourself, and then learn how to amplify your presence as you build your network. Think of your blog as an asset – the majority of the work is up-front, yet the major value comes on a much longer timeline.
3. Get good at one thing at a time
Most people who go into blogging nowadays are easily able to see people’s success and losses before they begin, so they can make informed decisions. While those who just want to blog for fun might have different priorities, for those who plan to make blogging a business, my focuses would be on learning SEO, understanding Pinterest, and picking the platform from the get-go. SEO is important, as traffic is the key driver to your content. You should know that it will take some time for you to monetize your blog and get organic rankings on Google. Also, link building, domain age, and on-page copy are all important in order to get those rankings. If you understand the importance of all three from the get-go, you won’t have to go back and make countless changes down the line.
Social Media is also important, but I’ve found that Pinterest, if used properly, drives the most traffic, as it acts as a search engine as well as a social media platform. If you plan on making other platforms a money generator in order to derive income from your blog in terms of advertising or affiliate sales, then search and organic rankings are key. Also, don’t be scared to part with a little money to have a site you are happy with. This will save you time and effort on redesigning a layout later on.
Trying to do too much at once is where I usually see growing bloggers fail. Many bigger bloggers, like those that are part of big companies, have multiple people helping them. But, as a one-person show starting out, you’ll be doing it all yourself. So pick a single focus instead of trying to do it all – get good at one thing first after you start a blog, and then move on to the next.
Daniel Clarke, the creator of Dan Flying Solo
4. Know what type of audience you want to attract to your personal blog
First, control your destiny. Don’t build on rented land. By that, I mean that you don’t want to use a blogging service where they could change the rules in a way that will destroy your business. If you build on Facebook, one algorithm change could destroy your flow of traffic. I recommend getting a good hosting service (I use WP Engine) and using WordPress. Even though you may have your own Facebook page or a YouTube channel, your website is the home of your blog and brand.
Next, be sure to build your email list. Websites occasionally get hacked or go down. If that happens, email may be the only way to communicate with your audience. The rest of the time, it gives you a chance to reach out to your audience rather than wait for them to come to you. Build a list of engaged followers and treat them well.
My most important suggestion is to know who you want to attract to your site. Are they younger or older? Do they have a common interest where you can solve problems for them? Watching your analytics can help you with determining who is coming to your site and what type of articles they like the best.
It’s also crucial to develop a brand that works for your audience. Your name can be your brand, but you want something that works consistently wherever you appear. Keep in mind that Twitter limits you to 15 characters per username. If that’s part of your strategy, make sure you don’t use a long name like “Industrial Passion” that ends up looking like @industrialpass. Yes, I made that mistake once.
Finally, don’t try to be all things to all people. Nobody trusts a jack of all trades. Be known for something specific instead.
William Beem, the creator of William Beem
5. Figure out your monetization strategy before starting out
For new bloggers, the first thing they should do before they even set up their personal blog is working out their monetization strategy. For example, if you want to start a travel blog you need to ask yourself, “How is it going to make money?” Through booking affiliates maybe? Ok. But remember, Hostelworld pays out about $0.10 per booking so is it ever really going to be worth your time, energy and costs? Probably not. In that case, find another strategy even if that means changing your niche – for example, specializing in Luxury Cruises is maybe a lot more lucrative than backpacking.
Secondly, you need to educate yourself as soon as possible about traffic sources and SEO, SEO, SE Freaking O!
Finally, new bloggers should set themselves ambitious yet realistic targets and work out a strategy as to how they are going to hit them.
Personally, I would avoid paying for blogging courses, as all they do is provide information which is already freely available and then chuck in a load of empty platitudes about how ‘hard work always pays off’ and you ‘should’ see X results.
The most common mistakes are doing the complete opposite of what I set out above – in fact, I made them all myself. I wrote long articles before I knew who I was writing them for and I sure as hell didn’t know how to promote them. The consequence is that those early articles remain largely unread to this day, which feels akin to screaming into some endless abyss!
Why bloggers make these mistakes is down to 2 reasons:
- Lack of understanding the very nature of blogging. We are here to answer questions, not tell stories.
- An admirable but sadly naive optimism that simply doing what you love will somehow pay off.
Aiden Joseph – the creator of Freeborn Aiden
6. Produce valuable content to achieve blogging success
The most important things for beginners to think about when starting a blog in 2019 are content, traffic source, and blog appearance.
- Content – content is still the king. You need to make content that your audience loves to consume. Start doing keyword research and produce the evergreen content around your niche.
- Traffic source – if the content is the king, then traffic is the lifeblood of your blog. You need to find ways to draw traffic to your blog such as search engine, social media platforms or other referrals.
- Blog design – once a reader lands on your blog, you have less than 3 seconds to capture their attention. So, having a good blog design can help reduce the bounce rate and increase readership.
In my opinion, not doing enough marketing is one of the common mistakes made by bloggers. Just because you have set up your own personal blog doesn’t mean the entire world knows about it. The blog traffic and ranking won’t simply improve by itself. That’s why the next thing you should do is promote your blog and let everyone know about it. Try networking with other bloggers and build your reputation around your niche.
Jason Chow, the site manager at Build This
7. Set clear business goals
First and foremost, you should have a very clear niche in mind. Defining your niche means that your content will be focused, and you’ll be more successful in establishing your branding to carve out a place for yourself in your chosen industry. Moreover, having a niche allows you to establish yourself as an expert in your chosen field and stand out among the crowded blogging space. You also put yourself in a better position for campaign opportunities, and when your site gets to the stage where it’s populated with quality content about a specific topic, you’ll find that search engines will also recognize you as an expert in this field.
It is also important to have a clear business goals in mind for your blog, whether it’s being set up as a business to monetize, as a portfolio of your work to gain other employment, or as a hobby blog where you can review products from time to time. For example, you’ll need to adopt different business strategies if you’re targeting affiliate income compared to setting yourself up as a freelance writer.
Prioritizing quantity over quality is a mistake many bloggers make when starting out. Building a large bank of content is definitely one of the keys to blogging success, however, you should really focus on making sure that your content has value. Having a ton of low-quality writing isn’t going to land you anywhere. Therefore, it’s much better to publish less frequently and know that you’re producing quality, SEO-optimized content that your readers will genuinely enjoy than to publish more frequently, but not meet any of those criteria. You can also update and fix up old content down the line. However, ensure that every post you publish offers something valuable that people won’t find anywhere else online.
Megan Jerrard, the creator of Mapping Megan
8. Do your research, but make sure to take the action ASAP
For a newbie to become a professional as quickly as possible, you need to rely on verified data. In other words, do research on already popular bloggers, learn from their mistakes and use their strengths. Here are some of my tips:
- Find out the main sources of traffic for bloggers in your niche. You can learn what social media brings the most traffic with the help of SimilarWeb tool.
- Choose WordPress as your blogging platform. Since there are so many plugins and tutorials on how to use it, you can always find answers to any of your questions.
- Articulate your questions clearly and search for answers on Google.
The most common mistake is the consumption of too much information and not taking action. The sooner you begin to act, the sooner you will understand what is working and what isn’t. Still, you shouldn’t run too much ahead either! Your task at the beginning is to create a blog, conduct research and start creating content.
The second mistake is thinking that the results will be visible soon, while in reality, it will take at least 6 to 12 months to see them. But it will be worth it because by then you will get new visitors daily for free.
The third frequent mistake is choosing the wrong topics for blog posts that will never be ranked well. In order to avoid this, your task is to always study existing competitors and understand why they take their spots on Google.
If you just started, don’t write on broad topics. Create as narrowly focused articles as possible, so that you can increase your chances of success. Big fish rarely swim in shallow water. You can use this as an opportunity to produce useful content and help your readers.
Michael Pozdnev – the founder of I Wanna Be a Blogger
9. Set up a personal blog on your own website
In order to become a successful blogger, make sure to talk to your customers. You need to figure out exactly who you’re targeting and what their challenges/pain points are before ever writing a word or producing an article. I know it sounds basic, but many companies don’t take the necessary time to learn about their audience, then they end up producing content on topics that their target audience doesn’t care about.
One other thing you should do is to own your own platform. I get a lot of questions about whether it’s better to host a blog on Medium or to set up a personal blog on your own website (like WordPress). Personally, I recommend to always set up a blog on your own site. When you blog on another platform, you don’t own your content and you’re not able to control the user experience when a visitor lands on your content.
Last but not least, figure out how you’re going to distribute your content. Are there communities you can share content in? Are you going to try link building? When you’re just starting out, promotion is just as important as creating content and just sharing your content on your social channels (LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.) won’t make a meaningful impact.
The most common mistake I see comes from the SEO side. In fact, many bloggers chase traffic instead of chasing conversion-related keywords. Many times the search queries that have a high volume of traffic are not the queries that drive conversions. If you’re blogging to grow a business, try to figure out what questions you can target instead of just going after the highest volume keywords in your niche.
Benji Hyam, co-founder of Grow and Convert
10. Get your site structure right
My first tip for new bloggers is not to worry about building organic traffic until you have some momentum. It’s really difficult to compete for organic search traffic when you have a new site and low domain authority. Therefore, I suggest beginning with what I like to call “movement first” content. This means getting great ideas out there and using social media to promote them.
The second thing would be to think about your blog like a library, not a publication. I’ve written extensively about this on our blog. To quickly summarize what I think by that: don’t just write a lot of content and hope some of it sticks. Instead, have a plan for creating evergreen resources, categorized by topic and hierarchy.
What I also recommend is to get your site structure right the first time. Once you have ten or twenty posts, stuff starts to get buried and it’s very difficult to find. Click depth is something that we measure, which is how many clicks on average it takes to get from content on the homepage to any article on the site. You’ll want to aim for two clicks, not seven or eight, which is what often happens when you just have a single feed of content. You can do this by building hubs and spokes, topic clusters and/or pillar pages.
The biggest mistake I often see is that people assume new content is the answer to everything. While it’s true that old content decays over time, it is almost always going to be easier to refresh and re-promote the old piece of content than it is to write a new one. Make sure you’re allowed time, space and budget for content refreshing. Build that stuff into your workflow – this will help you build traffic a lot faster.
Jimmy Daly, B2B content marketer at Animalz
11. Business or personal – decide on your blog’s focus
The first thing you need to do when starting your blog is to decide right away if you want your blog to be a business or just a personal outlet. The two can go together and you can switch from one to the other later, but it’s difficult. Knowing what your goal is from the beginning makes everything else a lot easier.
In my opinion, the platform doesn’t really matter when you’re starting out. Don’t stress about tech. If you want a blog, start writing. Focus on that and, if you decide later that you don’t like the platform you chose, you can switch.
And finally, everyone has an opinion on what the best traffic source is, but only you can decide what the best source is for you. I prefer to focus on SEO because it fits my personality, but social media doesn’t work for me because I don’t really care for most social media. Figure out where you’re most motivated to look for traffic, and you’ll probably find it there. If you’re successful, you can hire someone to help you with your other channels. In the long run, a diversity of channels, such as organic, paid (for business) social, etc. is the best.
One of the most common mistakes is to try to target a big amount of strategies. You can read for years about all the different ways to grow your blog, and the problem is – they all work. But, they won’t work if you try to do them all at once. Pick the ones you think you can excel at and stick to those until you have a solid base. Then, expand from there.
Tyler Tervooren, the founder of Riskology
12. Optimize your blog for Google, but write for humans
For a good head-start, you should definitely get a self-hosted site on WordPress, make sure to add relevant affiliate links to your blog posts from day one and focus on implementing a good SEO strategy over social media. That being said, as much as SEO is important, the quality of your writing should be what you focus on above all else. Find a way to hook your readers in with your personality, and as they begin to spend longer on your site, your search rankings will soar as well.
Keep in mind that as much as it’s good for search engines to notice you, writing solely for machines rather than actual humans is one of the most common mistakes that you can make as a blogging beginner. If you start prioritizing keyword density and SEO above all else, you’ll begin sounding like a robot, your articles will read weirdly, and you’ll turn people off. In travel blogging, at least, so many articles are beginning to sound exactly the same, as bloggers learn about keyword research, and they’re boring as hell for the readers.
Lauren Juliff, the creator of Never Ending Footsteps
13. Be careful when choosing your niche
The most important things for a blogger to consider before they start blogging:
- Choosing a niche they love, but one that’s going to be profitable.
- Learning about keyword placement, right off the bat.
- And finally, knowing what you’re worth when sponsors come knocking.
The most common mistakes bloggers make are choosing a niche they “divorce” later because they burn out. Other mistakes are not doing keywords, as well as undercharging sponsors who email them once their sites start picking up traffic.
Mike Hulleman, the founder of Hobo with a Laptop
14. Produce content, but make sure to also effectively promote it
When you’re just about to set up your personal blog, there are several things that need to be considered. Here are three that I would look into before even getting started:
- Domain name: What is the domain name and brand of your blog going to be? Try to secure a good domain name that is either a .com, .net or .org. Also, make sure not to use dashes or numbers in your domain name.
- Target audience: Before launching your blog and creating any content, it’s important to know who your audience is, what they are looking for, and how you can provide them with value.
- Business model: If you want to make money blogging, you need to have a business model. Don’t just create content and expect to get traffic and make money right away. You need to have some form of site monetization or something to sell first.
The most common mistake I see from bloggers who are trying to improve their traffic and make money online is that they are just focusing on content. With more than a billion active sites on the internet, the last thing we need is more content. Focus on creating 5-10 really great articles and resources, then spend the majority of your time promoting them. Also, make sure each article has a call-to-action to grow your mailing list or to make money.
Zac Johnson, the creator of Zac Johnson
15. Don’t be someone you’re not
In order to prosper in 2019, bloggers need creativity to come up with engaging and relevant content, consistency with regards to working on the blog and its corresponding social media channels and lastly, passion and love for what they do.
The number one mistake bloggers make is forcing themselves to be someone they’re not. In today’s time, many bloggers struggle to find their voice. This leads to copying other bloggers, which further results in poor content. In short, good content is what will keep your blog afloat.
Marilen Faustino – Montenegro, the creator of Marilen Styles
16. Start your email list right from the get-go
Host your blog on your own platform – wordpress.org rather than wordpress.com, especially if you plan to monetize your blog, as wordpress.com doesn’t let you do that.
Don’t rely solely on ever-changing algorithms to drive traffic to your site. Similarly, you shouldn’t rely only on social media either. Instead, I would advise you to start growing your email list from the very start. That being said, it’s still important to grow a social following. Instagram is the key platform to focus on right now.
Wendy Graham, the creator of Moral Fibres
17. Think business
I would always say have a business strategy in mind, take branding very seriously (a good looking site will always get more shares and links back) and learn SEO.
One of the most common mistakes is not having a business-like approach to how you manage your blog. This is very easy to do when you’re focusing on just your content. For example, if you invest some of the money that you make back into your business, your site will grow a lot more quickly!
Becky Moore, owner, writer, and photographer of Global Grasshopper
Now that you’ve gone through the advice of all these bloggers, you can go ahead and set up a personal blog on your own. But before everything else, make sure to:
- Figure out your niche and what you really want to write about.
- Then, choose your ideal platform and start producing unique, in-depth content that your target audience will find useful.
- Last but not least, don’t forget to set up your SEO and promote your brand on social media.
Above all, be patient, persistent and driven, and all your hard work will eventually pay off.
Finally, we’d like to thank all these blogging experts for taking the time to answer our questions. Hopefully, some of their tips will prove to be helpful for your blogging career!
We hope this article was helpful. If you liked it, feel free to check out some of these interviews as well!